How China became Saudi Arabia’s top trading partner, revived ancient Silk Road 

Special How China became Saudi Arabia’s top trading partner, revived ancient Silk Road 
China has emerged today as the Arab region’s largest trade partner.(AFP)
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Updated 09 December 2022

How China became Saudi Arabia’s top trading partner, revived ancient Silk Road 

How China became Saudi Arabia’s top trading partner, revived ancient Silk Road 
  • Modern China exports textiles, electronics and machinery to Saudi Arabia and imports crude oil and primary plastics
  • Both nations well placed to expand cooperation in the circular carbon economy, renewables and high-tech industries

RIYADH: Decisions made over the past decade since Xi Jinping became president have placed China on a firm footing to become Asia’s — if not the world’s — pre-eminent economic power. The country’s many achievements are in the limelight as Xi pays a state visit to Saudi Arabia in response to an invitation from King Salman.

Thanks to sweeping reforms, diplomatic engagement, and massive infrastructure development, China has emerged today as the Arab region’s largest trade partner, reclaiming its historic mantle as an export powerhouse.

What makes China such a resilient exporter is the diversity of products it manufactures — having shifted away from agriculture, clothing and textiles into electronics, machinery and computers — making it less vulnerable to market volatility.

The rise of China did not happen overnight of course. In the early 1970s, the country’s share of global trade stood at less than 1 percent. Then, after a series of reforms designed to open up the economy, demand for exports boomed, growing from $2.31 billion in 1970 to $7.69 billion in 1975.




The country’s many achievements are in the limelight as Xi pays a state visit to Saudi Arabia. (SPA)

By 1985, Chinese exports had reached a value of $25.77 billion, growing throughout the decade until 1993 when exports almost doubled in value in just one year from $53.36 billion to $104.61 billion in 1994.

Further growth followed China’s induction into the World Trade Organization in December 2001, stimulating a surge in value worth $520.24 billion over a period of just five years.

In 1990, China was ranked 14th among the top world exporters, representing just 1.8 percent of global exports. By 2000, it had risen to seventh place, making up 3.9 percent, just behind the UK and Canada.

In 2004, China overtook Japan as the world’s third-largest exporter, accounting for 6.5 percent of global exports. Then, in 2007, the value of Chinese exports broke the $1 trillion threshold for the first time, reaching $1.26 trillion.

Although the 2008 global financial crisis briefly slowed Chinese export growth, it quickly rebounded. By 2009, China had overtaken Germany as the world’s largest exporting nation, making up 9.6 percent of global exports. 

Unbowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, resulting in lockdowns, travel bans and a global economic slowdown, China’s exports have continued to grow, reaching an estimated $3.55 trillion in 2021.

China and the Arab world have a trade relationship stretching back 1,500 years to the time of the Silk Road, when Chinese fabrics came overland to the Arabian Peninsula and Arab incense, frankincense and pearls were carried to East Asia.

The name “Silk Road” was first coined by German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877 to describe the ancient trade routes between East Asia and Europe. The concept of a great unifying belt continues to inspire trade relations to this day.

Today, China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner. According to Reuters news agency, bilateral trade between the two countries reached $87.3 billion in 2021, with Chinese exports to the Kingdom reaching $30.3 billion and China’s imports from Saudi Arabia totaling $57 billion.

China’s main exports to Saudi Arabia are textiles, electronics and machinery, while China mainly imports crude oil and primary plastics from the Kingdom. In the first 10 months of 2022, China’s Saudi oil imports reached 1.77 million barrels per day, valued at $55.5 billion, according to Chinese customs data.

China’s global exports 

• 1970: $2.31bn

• 1985: $25.77bn

• 2000: $253.1bn

• 2005: $773.34bn

• 2010: $1.65 trillion

• 2020: $2.72 trillion

• 2021: $3.55 trillion 

Bilateral trade between Saudi Arabia and China grew steadily after the signing of a memorandum of understanding in November 1988, growing to $5.1 billion in 2002, of which China’s exports were worth $1.67 billion and imports $3.43 billion.

In October 1999, China’s then-President Jiang Zemin became the first Chinese leader to visit Saudi Arabia, where he signed a strategic oil deal with the Kingdom to help fuel China’s booming manufacturing sector.

In 2000, crude oil exports to China alone were valued at $1.5 billion. By 2010, they were worth well over $25 billion. In 2022, Saudi Aramco invested in a $10 billion refining and petrochemicals complex in China — the largest Saudi investment in China.

In September 2013, Xi announced the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative — formerly known as One Belt One Road, and often referred to as the new Silk Road — during an official visit to Kazakhstan.

The initiative sets out to connect the markets and manufactories of East Asia to those of Europe via a vast logistical and digital network running through Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa in a modern-day reimagining of the ancient Silk Road.




China’s exports have continued to grow, reaching an estimated $3.55 trillion in 2021. (AFP)

Considered the centerpiece of Xi’s foreign policy agenda, the Belt and Road Initiative is a global infrastructure development strategy, investing in 149 countries and international organizations, and which has been likened to the US Marshall Plan of the late 1940s.

The initiative, which was incorporated into the Chinese constitution in 2018, has a target completion date of 2049, intended to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative shares the same goal of boosting interconnectivity through cooperation in energy, trade, investment and technology as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 social reform and economic diversification agenda, launched in 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Beyond energy, technology and sustainable development, another emerging area of cooperation between the two nations is logistics. The Kingdom’s courier, express and parcel services market is forecast to grow over the next five years, offering the Belt and Road Initiative a valuable source of haulage infrastructure.

Saudi-based companies like AJEX and its international e-commerce express service are looking at ways to improve trade between China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and the wider Middle East to keep up with the demand for cross-border commerce.

By working together, diplomats and business leaders say Saudi Arabia and China are well-placed to expand their cooperation in the circular carbon economy, hydrogen power, renewable energy, and a host of other sustainable and high-tech industries.

In 2019, Chen Weiqing, China’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said his country’s Belt and Road Initiative is wholly consistent with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 agenda, highlighting both governments’ common interests and readiness to collaborate.

“China and the Kingdom are among the leading forces of dialogue among civilizations,” Chen said at the time in an opinion article for Arab News. “Cooperation between China and the Kingdom enjoys the characteristics of strategy, harmony, and mutual benefit.”

During the Chinese-Arab Friendship Association meeting in 2021, Mohammed Al-Ajlan, chairman of the Saudi-Chinese Business Council, said more than a dozen Chinese investors had expressed an interest in various Saudi infrastructure projects.

“The economic and financial cooperation between the Arab countries and China witnessed a clear development in the process of consolidating trade and investment relations,” Al-Ajlan said in a statement at the time.

“(We are) looking forward to more efforts to support trade exchange and joint investments by taking advantage of the opportunities available in all countries.”


SAMA annual conference discusses impact of inflation on economies 

SAMA annual conference discusses impact of inflation on economies 
Updated 14 sec ago

SAMA annual conference discusses impact of inflation on economies 

SAMA annual conference discusses impact of inflation on economies 

RIYADH: The impact of soaring inflation on the world’s economies, and the Middle East and North Africa region in particular, was among the most important topics that dominated this year’s annual conference of the Saudi Central Bank. 

This falls in line with the 2023 theme of the conference — Inflation Dynamics During Uncertain Times: The Path Toward Stable and Sustainable Recovery. 

The second annual Central Bank Conference on Development Economics in the Middle East and North Africa was held on Jan. 31 to Feb. 1, in Riyadh. 

During his opening speech, SAMA Deputy Governor for Research and International Affairs Fahad Alshathri encouraged academic research on behalf of the conference to enhance economic growth and stability.   

The governor added that the conference promoted the participation of the region’s economic entities to discuss the main issues facing policymakers.  

Alshathri also drew on the initiatives launched by SAMA to develop economic and financial research to boost the Kingdom’s economy further, which backs the Saudi Vision 2030 goals.   

Held under the patronage of SAMA Governor Fahad Almubarak, the event saw the participation of several central bank officials, senior economic researchers and top international speakers including the vice president of the World Bank Ferid Belhaj. 

The conference aligns with SAMA’s continuous efforts to develop research in different fields, as well as promote collaboration with local and international researchers and economists. 


UAE’s Pure Harvest inks food partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Nadec 

UAE’s Pure Harvest inks food partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Nadec 
Updated 10 min 27 sec ago

UAE’s Pure Harvest inks food partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Nadec 

UAE’s Pure Harvest inks food partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Nadec 

CAIRO: UAE-based agriculture technology startup Pure Harvest has signed a strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia’s National Agricultural Development Co. to deliver a large-scale national food security project. 

Pure Harvest will increase production capacity over the next five years by farming a wide range of crops, while the Saudi company, also known as Nadec, will market these products to its consumer base, hotels, restaurants, and catering partners. 

The partnership will enable the production of locally and sustainably grown fresh produce on more than 27 hectares on Nadec's farms. 

“Nadec is a formidable incumbent food supplier with a sterling reputation and brand, sizeable landholdings and enabling infrastructure, and an experienced leadership team,” Sky Kurtz, Founder and CEO of Pure Harvest Smart Farms, said. 

Nadec is the first listed agricultural company in the Saudi exchange market and produces over 1.5 million liters of dairy and juice per day, serving over 40,000 stories in the region as well as employing over 7,000 people. 

Both Nadec and Pure Harvest completed and commissioned their first-ever project in December 2021, producing over fifteen varieties of high-quality, hydroponically-grown tomatoes in an approximately six-hectare high-tech, climate-controlled growing system in Nadec City, Haradh. 

Pure Harvest raised $64.5 million in funding last October, and has secured over $280 million in total funding since its inception. 


Egypt fintech firm MNT-Halan securing $400m in new finance

Egypt fintech firm MNT-Halan securing $400m in new finance
Updated 01 February 2023

Egypt fintech firm MNT-Halan securing $400m in new finance

Egypt fintech firm MNT-Halan securing $400m in new finance

CAIRO: Egyptian microfinance lending and payments company MNT-Halan is securing $400 million in new equity and finance, bringing its valuation to more than $1 billion, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

The investments include an equity stake of at least 20 percent of MNT-Halan worth more than $200 million taken by private equity firm Chimera Abu Dhabi. Another $60 million in primary capital is being secured from international investors, the statement said.

These investors include the International Finance Corporation, according to data on the IFC's website.

MNT-Halan obtained $140 million in financing by securitizing part of its loan book, the statement said.

MNT-Halan provides small- and micro-business lending, payments, consumer finance and e-commerce, the company said. It has more than 5 million customers in Egypt, of which 3.5 million are financial clients and 2 million are borrowers. About 1.3 million of the customers are active monthly.

New legislation and regulatory changes in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, have been helping attract a surge in new fintech investments and change the way the country's largely unbanked citizens do business.

"Following the completion of these investments, MNT-Halan’s valuation will exceed $1 billion," the statement added.

Previous investors in MNT-Halan include Cairo-based Lorax Capital Partners, and Middle Eastern venture capitalists Algebra Ventures, DisrupTech, Endeavor Catalyst, Egypt Ventures, MEVP and Wamda.


UAE's DFM net profit up 41.7% to $40m in 2022 

UAE's DFM net profit up 41.7% to $40m in 2022 
Updated 01 February 2023

UAE's DFM net profit up 41.7% to $40m in 2022 

UAE's DFM net profit up 41.7% to $40m in 2022 

RIYADH: Dubai Financial Market Co. reported an increase of 41.7 percent in net profit to 147.1 million dirhams ($40 million) for the fiscal year ending on Dec. 31, 2022, compared to 103.8 million dirhams in 2021. 

The company recorded a total revenue of 351.2 million dirhams, up 19 percent compared to the previous year’s 294.6 million dirhams. 

In the fourth quarter of 2022, DFM posted a net profit of 58.1 million dirhams compared to 65.7 million dirhams in the corresponding period of 2021, according to a press release. 

Its total revenue for the period reached 113.4 million dirhams, compared to 111.5 million dirhams in the fourth quarter of 2021.  

Helal Al Marri, chairman of DFM said: “Our relentless focus on our capital markets development strategy has borne fruit, making DFM one of the most active markets globally for new IPOs and listings with the successful listing of 5 IPOs for leading government-related and private companies.” 

The company’s board of directors also recommended the distribution of a cash dividend of 134.7 million dirhams, equivalent to 1.68 percent of the capital and 100 percent of the total retained earnings available for distribution, it added.  

Moreover, the board also resolved to submit a recommendation to the annual general meeting to adopt a new fixed dividend policy, stipulating that the company annually distributes a minimum of 50 percent of its net profit as opposed to the current practice of cash dividend every two years. 

DFM ended the year on a strong note with trading value increased by 24.5 percent to 90 billion dirhams compared to 2021, and the market capitalization of listed securities increased by 41.4 percent to 582 billion dirhams.  

Over the past year, DFM has attracted 167,332 new investors, registering 23 times jump compared to 2021.  


Saudi National Bank 2022 net profit surges 47% to $4.96bn 

Saudi National Bank 2022 net profit surges 47% to $4.96bn 
Updated 01 February 2023

Saudi National Bank 2022 net profit surges 47% to $4.96bn 

Saudi National Bank 2022 net profit surges 47% to $4.96bn 

RIYADH: Saudi National Bank reported a 46.7 percent increase in net profit in 2022 to SR18.6 billion ($4.96 billion) from SR12.7 billion in 2021, spurred by higher operating income and a decline in provisions for expected credit losses. 

The Kingdom’s biggest bank, which last year acquired a 9.88 percent stake in the troubled Swiss investment institution Credit Suisse, also booked a 61 percent surge in net profit in the fourth quarter of 2022 to SR4.8 billion from SR2.96 billion during the same period in 2021. 

The results beat the average analyst estimate of SR18.2 billion, according to Refinitiv data. 

The bank said in a statement to the Saudi Stock Exchange that total operating income grew 16.9 percent to SR33 billion in 2022 from SR28.23 billion in 2021.  

Its net special commission income jumped 18.4 percent to SR26.29 billion between January and December 2022 from SR22.21 billion in 2021. 

“Total operating income increased mainly due to higher net special commission income by 18.4 percent, fee income from banking services by 21.1 percent, and lower other operating expenses by 12.4 percent,” the bank said in a statement to Tadawul. 

Moreover, total operating expenses, including impairments, were lower by 15.2 percent, mainly due to a 13.5 percent decline in other general and administrative expenses and a 57.4 percent fall in a net impairment charge for expected credit losses. 

Earnings per share clocked an impressive 46.7 percent increase to SR4.15 in 2022 from SR2.83 in 2021. 

SNB’s total assets also increased 3.43 percent to SR945.46 billion in 2022 from SR914.15 billion in 2021, even as loans and advances gained 9.6 percent to SR543.31 billion to SR497.57 billion during the period under review. 

Customer deposits, however, dropped 3.45 percent to SR568 billion in 2022 compared to SR588.57 in 2021. 

Last month, SNB announced its intention to raise its paid-up capital by SR15.22 billion to boost its financial position. Its board recommended that shareholders approve the increase in capital by about 34 percent, from SR44.78 billion to SR60 billion riyals, through the issuance of bonus shares. 

“The recommendation is aimed to strengthen the bank’s financial position, which contributes to achieving its strategic objectives,” the bank said in a statement to Tadawul. 

The bank will issue about one bonus share for every three owned by shareholders, it said. 

“The eligibility of the bonus shares shall be for shareholders owning shares by the end of the trading day of the bank’s extraordinary general assembly meeting, which will be announced at a later date,” the bank said.